Mothers as Traveling Ministers

The mundane details that I wrote up before I left, but didn't get to post.

One of the things that modern Friends have lamented, in my hearing at least, is the lack of practical details about how earlier generations of women managed to leave their households for extended periods in the service of God.

This may be excessively detailed and boring to most people, but it has occupied an enormous amount of my time and energy over the last month, along with the spiritual and logistical preparations for my part of the traveling ministry I’m engaged in. And it’s my blog, so there.

A partial explanation of the arrangements I have made in preparation to be away from my household for five days:

My husband will drop our younger son off early at the home of a neighbor/classmate whose parents will then take him to preschool at the usual time. After lunch at school, another classmate’s parents will take our son to their home until my husband can pick him up. Our older son will go to a classmate’s home one day and stay at the school’s extended day program two days. This is a balance between imposing on our friends and paying for childcare. In preparation, I have hosted extra afterschool playdates at our house with these classmates. Over the weekend, my husband has invited another father with two sons to join them on an outing to a nearby wetlands. I also traded workdays at our cooperative nursery school so as to work the Tuesday before I leave, rather than the first morning I get back.

I have prepared menus and shopped for groceries for the week, as usual. I purchased more prepared foods than usual (like frozen pizza) to facilitate my husband making dinner after rushing from work to pick up both boys and then home. My husband is a competent cook, but this is still a hard part of the single parent routine. I baked and froze extra batches of zucchini muffins and oatmeal chocolate chip cookies for snacks for the week. Our sons are used to helping set the table and clearing up for meals.

My husband and I share these duties in any case. I’m leaving the laundry and dishes caught up. The boys are accustomed to emptying the dishwasher and folding/putting away their own laundry. I don’t know if the floors will get swept or the sinks cleaned while I’m gone – if it really needs it, they’ll manage. My husband is always more likely to vacuum than I am anyway.

Other Friends have agreed to call our house and check in with my husband on several evenings, to be friendly and see if he needs anything by way of material or moral support.

We are blessed.


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Blogger Chris M. said...

Thanks for recording this side of your ministry. You did a great job!

The dishes were washed. Tried to catch up on laundry so you could do yours on returning. No vacuuming or sweeping was done.

The wetlands weren't so nearby -- pretty long drive, actually. Audubon Canyon Ranch: We went for the egrets, stayed for the newts!

Okay, lunch break is over, back to work!

-- Chris M.

3/21/2007 4:20 PM  
Blogger Martin Kelley said...

I'm glad you all are managing the juggle. Between tight finances and childcare needs I find I have to turn down most Quaker events these days (just had to turn down an interesting yearly meeting opportunity this weekend, sigh). I wish my Quakerism could be more face-to-face these days but it's just not possible.

A nice thing about the web is that it allows parents of small children to be more involved than we otherwise would be. Eventually my little ones will be more independent and hopefully I'll have more walking-around-money someday but in the meantime the blogging world is keeping me in touch.

3/21/2007 9:00 PM  
Blogger Robin M. said...

Hi guys! It all worked out. I feel a little like The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes, but Shawna probably wins that award before me. Thank God for school, is all I can say.

At the workshop, I had the opportunity to say that one of the benefits of the Quaker blogosphere is that it is available when your babies are small, etc. Our youngest is five now! and I am feeling much freer than I did before. Thank you Martin for your part in making this happen!

3/21/2007 11:20 PM  
Blogger Liz in the Mist said...

This had me laughing "And it’s my blog, so there." :)

Kudos to finding a healthy balance, and being simply organized :)

3/22/2007 9:41 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sounds like you did more than I did to prepare for being away. I was sadly unable to claim that I left any housework caught up, although I did make a casserole before I left. I wanted to say that one of the highlights of the trip for me was meeting you and all of the other mothers of young children. That is one population that is largely lacking from my monthly meeting. Thanks for sharing.

3/22/2007 9:42 AM  
Blogger kathy said...

Robin, this is an important reminder that it's logistically tough to be a minister of the Gospel sometimes. It's great that you have the support of your community, kids and husband who are partners in your calling. Not everyone has that so cherish it!

I am looking forward to hearing more about your trip.

3/22/2007 9:45 AM  
Blogger Robin M. said...

Liz, Chris always warns me against being sarcastic on my blog, but... It's my blog.

Hi Rachel, yes! one of the blessings of the weekend was meeting other young-ish women who are mothers and engaged in Quaker work. This possibility is one of the things I cherish about being a Quaker.

Kathy, you are right. It still amazes me what some women my age put up with in their homes. One of my goals in parenting is to raise sons who are prepared to be equal partners.

And I am looking forward to posting more about my trip, but it seems to come out of my pen in such a haphazard fashion that I have to finish writing it all before I can organize it into blogposts. But I'm working on it, don't worry. In the meantime, I had a few things stored up that I will keep publishing until I'm ready.

3/22/2007 2:38 PM  
Blogger RichardM said...

Traditionally Quakers understood that the monthly meeting had an obligation to provide some financial support for people travelling in the ministry. They knew that this costs money and that Quakers often didn't have a lot of money. When a Meeting agreed to write a travel minute for a Friend it was understood that they would provide material assistance and not just words of support.

I think we really need more intervisitation and monthly meetings need to recognize that this is important enough to support with some real hard cash. We really should not pretend that every Friend is well-to-do or that only well-to-do Friends are called to travel. I don't think this is crass. I think it's just realistic.

3/22/2007 3:47 PM  
Blogger Robin M. said...

Richard, perhaps I should also have mentioned that my monthly meeting provided both a letter of introduction and a substantial financial contribution to this ministry. It covered my full transportation costs, although not meals, lodging, or the conference registration fee. This brought the trip into the realm of possible. But it may have exhausted my meeting's ability to support me financially in this ministry for this year.

It is also my understanding that, traditionally, when Friends traveled in the ministry, that they would receive hospitality (meals, lodging) where they arrived. One of the differences is whether Friends travel to visit other monthly meetings or to institutional conferences.

We have work to do still to figure out how to be Friends in the postmodern era.

3/22/2007 5:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I loved this narrative of what and who it takes to make Quaker travel possible. Whew!

3/22/2007 5:36 PM  
Blogger Lisa H said...

Yup. It's like that. Two bits come to mind in response:

My daughter's answer, a few years back, to a line in one of my songs that says, "So how do I feed my children, when I'm too tired to cook?" was "Ask Daddy to do it!" By now, she relishes the chances to cook dinner herself, usually with very little help.

Last Sunday in meeting, I found myself reflecting again on some ministy that was given to me a couple of years ago. When Jesus traveled from town to town, there were people lining up to be healed, even just to touch the hem of his garment. Some of those people had had to drop everything and walk for days to get to where he would be, perhaps in chronic pain, and arrange for friends and family to take care of all their daily affairs while they were gone. Some of them just lived on the next street over, and might almost not have shown up to see him.

More often, I think I'm like the ones who almost miss that life-changing visit. But I'm grateful when I do show up, for whatever it took to make that possible.

Thank you for being a fellow companion on this path.

3/22/2007 6:31 PM  
Blogger RichardM said...


Yes, if the travel is to another MM then the host meeting ought to supply food and lodging when it can. My wife read my comment and said I sounded like a curmudgeon. Did I sound grumpy and abrupt to you? I didn't mean it that way. My intention was to stress the value of these visits and the responsibility of those who are not doing the visiting to help to make it possible.

I find I have been doing more visiting these past two years and hope to do even more after we get the last child off to college in a couple more. Managing extensive Quaker travel when the kids were small seemed impossible for us. I'm glad you can do it, my wife and I could only manage one such trip per year--yearly meeting in July--back when we had small children.

3/23/2007 12:16 PM  
Blogger Robin M. said...

Richard, I didn't think you sounded grumpy, but maybe that's because I agreed with you so completely.

Lisa - yes. How often do I miss the opportunities right around the corner because something more exotic sounds more interesting? This was one of the themes of discussion in our workshop in Providence. Thank you too for being a fellow traveler on this journey!

3/26/2007 3:42 PM  

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